Apprenticeship Program Gains Steam in Second Year

Mold manufacturer Superior Tooling is more optimistic than ever that the North Carolina Triangle Apprenticeship Program (NCTAP) will start bearing fruit.


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Robbie Earnhardt (blue shirt), president of Superior Tooling, takes touring students and parents through the company’s new tech center. Visible to the left is the shop's latest injection press, an all-electric model that facilitates a more scientific mold sampling process. Read this month's profile for more on the shop's mold sampling capability (Image courtesy of Creative Technology Corp.)

Among other topics, this month’s profile on Superior Tooling covers the shop’s involvement in the North Carolina Triangle Apprenticeship Program (NCTAP), which it joined as a founding member in late 2013. When that article went to the printer more than a month ago, company president Robbie Earnhardt was optimistic about the program’s second full year. It’s attracted a lot more attention in 2015 versus 2014, he’s quoted as saying, citing increased attendance at initial student/parent tours of member companies and the potential for federal funding after a meeting with Secretary of Labor Tom Perez. Beyond increased turnout, letters like this one, sent to Earnhardt by a parent of one potential candidate, had added to his conviction that the broader community has taken notice. “This isn’t the only letter we’ve received,” he says.

In the meantime, the program has entered its next phase. Just a few weeks ago, after the article had wrapped, the initial tour groups had been narrowed down to 40 students, who were asked to choose the member companies they’d like to join most. The 12 who selected Superior Tooling as one of their top three choices then spent two days at the shop and one day each at two other partners (GlaxoSmith Kline and Captiveaire). Notably, these sessions were hands-on—at Superior, students were required to demonstrate their aptitude by completing a basic machining “project,” among other tasks.

Based on their performance, four of the 12 were selected for summer-long internships that will provide a chance to further gage their potential fit at Superior Tooling. At the end of the summer, Earnhardt expects that two will formally join up as NCTAP apprentices. In that role, they’ll spend four years of splitting time between paid work at the shop and pursuing a degree at Wake Technical Community College. That said, there’s no guarantee that Superior (or other member companies who’ve selected their own candidates for internships) will accept any of the prospective NCTAP apprentices. After all, the company will bear most of the program’s cost, so it’s important to ensure a good fit.

Keep an eye on this blog for further updates on Superior’s second year as an NCTAP member. Meanwhile, for more about how the program works and how the shop got involved in the first place, check out this article from last year.